« August 2012 | Main | October 2012 »

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Rocky Encounter With Wiley Coyote

My daily commute takes me and my scooter roughly an hour (each way) through a mostly empty landscape where someone from New Mexico would feel right at home. Lots of scrub, rolling hills, earth tones… and rocks.

It’s the rocks that will be the focus of this discussion… or at least the catalyst for it.

You see, there are rocks everywhere. There are big ones and small ones, poking through what remains of the dry soil on the hillsides, and heaped in piles where the seasonal rains have washed them against one another.

Over the millennia, enterprising farmers have used some of the stones to build terraces on the hillsides. The rationale being that since there is little or no vegetation to keep the soil from washing off the hillsides, a terrace can at least catch enough of it to make little pockets of agriculture – grapes and olives mostly – possible.

As arable areas of the hillsides were parceled off by tribal leaders and absentee landlords over the centuries for the purposes of collecting rent, more of the idle stones were put to use building and mending walls between these parcels.

Robert Frost would feel at home here.

I was passing through a series of sharp bends about halfway through my morning commute when ahead in the roadway I spotted a clutter of stones. These were the softball sized rocks that I’ve come to recognize as the hallmark of a rock attack on passing cars recently concluded… or still in progress

I quickly scanned the steep hillside and spotted the lone figure of a young man just above where the roadway was littered with stones. But instead of standing poised to throw more stones, he was busily engaged in trying to use a stick to lever a precariously balanced boulder into a bounding dash that would land it onto the roadway below.

The boulder in question was twice the size of the boy, and it didn’t take an advanced degree in physics to understand that the likelihood of him succeeding in dislodging the enormous rock where thousands of years of erosion and gravity had failed, were slim at best.

But I’m not a gambling man, nor very familiar with physics. Just because I wasn’t going to get squashed like a bug didn’t mean this kid wouldn’t eventually win his battle with inertia and push this, or some other, boulder down onto an innocent motorist.

I continued a couple of hundred yards around to the other side of the hill, pulled my scooter onto the shoulder, and contemplated what to do.  I didn’t have any authority in this inhospitable place, but before calling the cops or the army, I wanted to get another look at what the teenager was really up to.

So I walked up the rocky incline and crested the hill just above where the young man was busily working with his improvised fulcrum. I watched him for a few seconds, and for all the world he reminded me of ‘Wiley Coyote’ setting a trap for the Road Runner.

The only difference was that once he lost interest in the boulder he was working on, he’d probably go find another one… or go back to tossing smaller rocks at passing cars. It didn’t matter that the Acme Company didn’t deliver out here.  I could see by the determined effort he was applying to his stick that he’d get his Road Runner… one way or another.

I took out my phone and dialed the local Army operator to report what was going on.  Once I started speaking into the phone, Wiley looked up the hill in surprise, but instead of running away (as I though he might), he started shouting at me in Arabic and waving his stick in the air.

I gave the relevant information of what was going on and where I was to the operator and hung up to consider my next move.  I really hadn’t thought things through very well.

Just then, a passing tractor stopped on the road below and an older man who had been driving, and a young man who had been sitting behind him, jumped off and jogged up the steep hillside to a spot between Wiley and myself.

With a few softly spoken words in Arabic, the young man who had been the passenger on the tractor relieved Wiley of his stick and tossed it away.

I wasn’t sure if he did so to show me that it was no longer a threat, or to introduce plausible deniability if /when the police or army showed up.  Oddly, the gesture didn’t make me feel better; Just less sure of the justice of my position.

The older man walked up to where I was standing and asked me in heavily accented Hebrew what had happened.

I pointed down at the roadway near his tractor and told him that the young man had been throwing rocks (which was obvious from the scattered stones), and that when I stopped he’d been trying to use his stick to dislodge the boulder and roll it down the hill.

The old man asked me if I had called the police.  I told him I had called the army.He looked distraught.

With words and gestures the old man began pleading with me to call them back and tell them everything was okay.  He explained that the young man I now thought of as Wiley Coyote was not right in the head and was not responsible for his actions.

I asked him if he was Wiley’s father, and he said that he was ‘a relative’ (which could mean anything).  I asked him what it mattered if Wiley was ‘not right in the head’ if he killed a passing driver (a young father and his infant son were killed this past year in a rock attack not far from where we stood)?

He shrugged and said I was right, but that it was still just a mistake.Wiley wasn’t supposed to be out by himself and people usually looked after him to keep him from getting into trouble.

By now, the younger tractor passenger and Wiley had walked up the hillside to where I was talking to the older man.  The tractor passenger who looked to be about 20 had a quick intelligence about his face.His expression was guarded, but his eyes took in everything at once and seemed to be waiting for further data.

Wiley, who upon closer examination looked about 14 or 15, seemed like a blank slate. Now that he had been taken in hand, he looked neither hostile nor angry. But he didn’t look contrite, either. He simply looked like a kid who’d been interrupted at one activity and was only mildly curious to see what the next activity might be.

I told the old man to look at the roadway again.  I explained that any one of the rocks down there could have killed someone. Could have killed me!

The young tractor passenger asked me if he’d thrown anything at me. I told him no, but that the only reason he hadn’t is that he was busy trying to roll the boulder down into the roadway.

Then the old man asked a disarming question. He asked me what I thought would happen when the army showed up.

I told him that they would probably arrest the person responsible for trying to kill passing motorists.

He then asked me if I knew what would happen to the boy once he was arrested. I admitted I didn’t.

He explained that for a lot of the boys it was a point of pride to be arrested and thrown in jail. For many of them their first time in custody was for stone throwing. Later, once they were labeled in the system as security problems, they wouldn’t be able to get work permits and would turn to the gangs and get into bigger trouble.

I stopped the old man and said, “How is that my problem? It all starts with the fact that this kid was doing something that could have killed me or anyone else unlucky enough to pass while he was up on this hillside.”

The old man nodded sadly and said, “Yes, but this one is different. He isn’t angry like the others. He isn’t throwing stones to hurt anyone. He is doing it because he has nothing else to do”.

I asked, “Do you think that would matter to my wife and kids if he’d killed me?”

Before he could answer a jeep pulled up behind the tractor and four soldiers got out and started walking up the hillside towards us.

The old man became frantic. “Please don’t tell them to take him away. It is our fault for not watching him. If they take him his life is over. He’s sick in the head. He’ll go into jail a rock thrower and come out a terrorist. Is that what you want?”

It took the soldiers a minute or two to reach us, and in that time I stood with my hands in my pockets wondering what to do.

I hated that I was being manipulated to feel like I was in the wrong. I hated that I had gone from being a good Samaritan; concerned about the safety of passing traffic, to being accused of wanting to turn a (possibly) mentally ill teenager into a hardened terrorist.

The most senior of the soldiers walked up to me and eased me a couple of steps away from the others with a hand on my arm, while the other three soldiers remained by the three Arabs.

When we were a few steps away the officer asked me what had happened. I told him that I had been driving past and had seen the rocks in the road. When I looked up the hillside I’d seen an Arab trying to roll a big boulder down into the roadway.

The officer looked down at the roadway filled with rocks, and at the tractor parked in front of his jeep and asked, “Where’s your car?”

I told him that I had been riding a scooter and that it was parked on the shoulder around the bend on the other side of the hill.

He yelled for one of the soldiers to go take a look and make sure nobody was messing with my scooter, and one of the three broke off and jogged over the hill and out of sight.

The young officer turned back to me and asked me which one had been throwing rocks.

I looked at the little group of Arabs and soldiers and said nothing for a moment. I hated having this kind of power over another human being. I knew I was in the right and should report the kid. But my moral compass was spinning… unsure of where the high ground might be.

I hedged. I said, “I didn’t actually seeing anyone throwing the rocks. They were already in the roadway when I pulled up. I just came up to confront the kid who was up here because I saw him trying to roll a big rock towards the road.”

The officer asked again, “So which one was up here when you stopped?”.

I looked at the old man, his passenger… and at Wiley Coyote, and said, “He ran away before I could catch him. These three arrived on the tractor and stopped when they saw me running after the kid. I was asking them if they knew who he was.”

The officer said, “And did they?”

I shook my head.

The look in the old man’s eyes was one of relief. There might have been gratitude there too, but I may have been imagining that. His young passenger was still looking on with his intelligent eyes and still had a non-committal look on his face. The jury was still out with that one.

Wiley Coyote was still a blank slate. He looked neither scared nor relieved at his reprieve. His lack of reaction lent credence to the claim of him not being ‘all there’. But it could also mean that he didn’t understand Hebrew.

Of course it could also be that I’d been played in a cultural game where I don’t know all the rules, much less have the ability to spot any of the other player’s ‘tells’.

After a few more words of little consequence, the three soldiers headed back down towards their jeep and I went back over the hill the way I had come.

By the time I was back standing on the shoulder and had my helmet and gloves on, the army jeep had driven around the hill to where I was and picked up the fourth soldier who had been sent to babysit my scooter.

As they stopped to let the soldier in, the tractor rounded the bend and passed us. I was sure I’d see only the old man and his inscrutable passenger on the tractor, and that Wiley Coyote would still be on the loose. But there were two passengers now perched behind the old man.

And for the moment, I am leaning towards feeling like I did the right thing.

But I’m not sure.

Posted by David Bogner on September 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Almost Yom Kippur

Introspection is hard.

It sometimes requires a life-changing event (think crash or other screw-up that endangers or injures others).

Sometimes it requires a life-changing decision (think the 'making amends' part of a 12 step program).

And sometimes it requires a somber 'holiday' whose raison d'être is to force one to accept that even the most careful stroll through this life means occasionally stepping on the toes of others.

So, my fellow travelers, as careful as I have tried to be, I am certain that over the past year I have trod upon more than a few of your toes... I've offended some of you with my views or inappropriate humor... I've stretched your patience with my long-winded posts... and I've remained silent when some of you needed comfort or understanding.

For all these things, and any I might have missed, I apologize and ask your forgiveness.

I have no excuse. Not one.

But I promise to try to do better in the coming year, or in however much time I have left, to make amends.

Posted by David Bogner on September 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Friday, September 21, 2012

A very powerful video


Posted by David Bogner on September 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I Told You So!

Back in 2005 I wrote a post about how the issue of how intellectual property rights are routinely ignored/trampled in the Jewish community (in general), and most frustratingly; specifically within the observant community.

Here's what I wrote back then:

Anyone who knows me is aware that one of my (many) pet peeves is the rather, shall we say, casual attitude my 'observant' coreligionists have towards intellectual property rights and copyright infringement.

Walk into any Judaica store in the world and you will find bins full of kippot (yarmulkes) bearing the logos of every major sports franchise and sneaker company... Hannukiot (menoras) and dreidles (tops) painted with characters from the latest Disney or Pixar film... and other miscellaneous tchotchkes emblazoned with every conceivable proprietary image. 

The problem is that most, if not all of this stuff was created without bothering to get (i.e. pay for) rights to use the images and logos.

Whenever I have pointed this out to the store owners I have invariably gotten the old,

"Oh c'mon now... everybody does it." 

When I have tried to use terminology that should carry more weight with these guys such as 'G'nivat HaDa'at' (the term in Jewish law for stealing someone else's ideas or intellectual property), they wave me away with lame excuses such as,

"You think the Yankees really mind if some kid walks around with their logo on his kippah?  Puleeeze, I'm sure that not only are they me'ayesh (a technical term meaning to relinquish all claim to something) any money they might have seen from this kind of thing... but they probably like the exposure!"

Yeah... that makes sense.  If sales of Yankee tickets and Nike sneakers are up this year, it's because of all the free publicity they are getting on the heads of Yeshiva kids!

Well, it seems the chickens are coming home to roost. 

According to this article, Marvel comics and DC Comics are both suing the owner of a store on Jerusalem's Ben Yehuda street for selling Batman and Spiderman kippot (Yarmulkehs) without having secured the rights to do so.

I am normally a champion of small businessmen and entrepreneurs.  But in this case, I am pleased as punch that someone  has taken notice and is giving people who should know better (e.g. observant Jews) a lesson in the laws of intellectual property.

And before you weigh in to try to convince me how wrong I am, please imagine that you owned the rights to the Siderman and/or Batman images / intellectual property.  How would you feel about everyone making a buck off of what should be exclusively yours?

Okay... now you can talk.

Posted by David Bogner on September 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Alone with the dishes (reprised)

[I wrote this post back in 2004 to describe the mental preparation that goes into this period between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur. I reposted it four years later in 2008. It's 2012 and I still haven't been able to improve upon it.]

One gets to do a fair amount of thinking late at night… alone with the dishes. Zahava does her fair share of dishes, but for the big jobs… particularly after dinner parties, large Shabbat/holiday meals, etc… I’m the guy left surveying the wreckage and not knowing exactly where to begin.

So it is (for me) with the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur.

For me, this time of year is like the aftermath of an enormous, wild dinner party… one where invitations were extended to far more people than the house could comfortably accommodate…. the kind of rollicking soirée that is talked about and savored for months.

But such a party comes with a price to pay.

Rosh Hashanah (for me) is roughly analogous to standing [aghast] in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room surveying the damage.

What was I thinking?

Every horizontal surface is stacked high with dirty glasses and dishes.

Half-empty bottles of merlot, syrah and chardonnay stand abandoned beside empty bottles of bourbon and scotch.

The sinks overflow with greasy dishes, and the dessert service (dishes, tea cups and saucers) seem evenly distributed between the dinning room table and the various kitchen counters.

Linen napkins sit balled on (and under) chairs, and glasses of every description seem to wink at me from wherever the wandering conversationalists abandoned them.

On Rosh Hashanah I stand slumped in that imaginary doorway trying to make the insurmountable seem… well, surmountable. Trying to place the soiled contents of my slovenly year into some kind of framework where things can be addressed in an orderly fashion.

Anyone who has been left to clean up after a big dinner party understands the daunting nature of that moment. At first glance it seems the house will never clean again.

But then I pick up that first wine glass (with the half-moon of lipstick on the rim) and place it in such a way as to demonstrate to the long departed guests and sleeping house that this spot on the sideboard is where the crystal will be gathered.

And so Rosh Hashanah begins (for me)… nothing getting washed just yet… just making the insurmountable seem surmountable.

Several circuits of the house bring more wine, whiskey, and water glasses than I ever knew we owned, to join the first one there on the counter.

Then, emptying one of the sinks of its precariously balanced contents, I draw a basin of steaming hot soapy water.

As the sink fills I designate other places for dishes and cups and saucers… each to each… all according to size. Warming to the familiar task, I take comfort in the muffled sound of the water under its foamy cloak… almost like a prayer.

And so Rosh Hashanah continues (for me). Nothing getting washed just yet… just making the insurmountable seem surmountable.

Next the sterling flatware and serving pieces are gathered into a soup pot full of soapy water, and the linen napkins are bundled with the tablecloth into the hamper in the laundry room.

With the leftovers put safely into the refrigerator and the trash bundled to the bin, the place is starting to look more sane… not one iota cleaner, mind you... but a hint of order has begun to emerge.

Now pots and pans of every shape and size are filled with soapy water and placed on the stove to soak. Measuring cups and carving knives are placed beside legions of serving platters. Spices are returned to their places and canisters of flour and sugar are placed back on their shelves… each gesture creating a bit of space… and the comforting suggestion of emerging order.

And so Rosh Hashanah ends (for me)… nothing having been washed just yet… but the insurmountable seems finally… surmountable.

I stand again in the spiritual doorway between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur… balanced on the threshold between what I have created during the year…and what I have consumed. I haven’t yet washed a thing, although some of the bigger problems have been identified and have been placed in to soak. The glasses all sit with their fellows and the dishes are stacked according to size. Everything still bears the smudges and smears of too much fun… too much indulgence.

But now as I look around, the task seems manageable… surmountable.

As I stand listening to the soft ahhhhhhhhhh of the soap bubbles as they settle in the sink, I am ready for Yom Kippur. I know what has to be washed… and I know (hope) that after the necessary amount of work I will find myself at the end of Yom Kippur’s fast with the dish towel in my hands, surveying the sparkling china… the lovingly polished sterling… the immaculate crystal… each in its place, and the house looking (and feeling) ready for a fresh beginning.

May we all be inscribed and sealed for a good year.


Posted by David Bogner on September 16, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Soft Target

'Soft target' is a military term referring to an unarmored/undefended target. But in a more complex sense, it also means a target that is not likely to be dangerous to the attacker.

In schoolyard terms, a bully instinctively understands the difference between a hard target (the well muscled 6'3" captain of the baseball team who happens to be carrying his favorite bat), and a soft target (the 5'5" president of the math club whose only frame of reference for 'protection' is the plastic sleeve he has in his shirt pocket to keep his pens and pencils from marking up his clothing.

In short, it isn't just who is easier to beat up... it is who is less likely to fight back. This may seem like a fine distinction... but it is one which is certainly on the bully's mind.

Back in the late 1970s, Jimmy Carter was in the White House at a time when Iran was experiencing a revolution that in today's optimistic lexicon would probably have been called a 'Persian Spring'.

This juxtaposition of a White House that was widely perceived internationally as weak, and an uprising that was based on Religious (Muslim) principles as much as on the desire to overthrow a despot, created a perfect storm of sorts where American interests abroad, and Americans themselves, were suddenly perceived as extremely soft targets by the newly emboldened bullies.

The result was the 1979 violent storming of the American Embassy in Tehran by a crowd of Islamist 'students', and the subsequent taking of more than 60 hostages; 52 of whom would be held and tortured for 444 days.

It's that 444 days that is significant because the hostages were finally released on January 20th, 1981 at the exact moment that Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President and was giving his inaugural speech. There is little doubt that the arrival of a tough new 'sheriff in town' had a profound affect on the perception of America's willingness to defend its interest and citizens.

We seem to be at a similar confluence of perceptions of American passivity and Islamic unrest today. In the White House sits a president who may well be a genius in terms of social engineering, economic recovery and other things related to domestic policy. Sadly, the effectiveness of presidential policy directives are rarely perceptible in real time.

But looking out to the world, President Obama seems to have made a Carter-esque (one might even call it Chamberlain-esque) willingness to appease and apologize, the cornerstone of his foreign policy. To groups and governments whose use of chaos and violence seems carefully calculated specifically to test the resolve and reaction of the American leadership, the result is that America is increasingly viewed abroad as a soft target.

As if to prove the point, in the space of a few hours this week, the American Embassy in Cairo (Egypt) and the American Consulate in Benghazi (Libya) were both overrun by an Islamist-led mob ostensibly enraged over a video ridiculing the Prophet Mohammed currently circulating on the internet that had allegedly been made by an American.

In Egypt (which is the 2nd largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid) only physical damage was done to the Embassy compound. But in Libya, the American Ambassador and three of his staff were murdered and dragged through the streets by the mob.

One would have hoped that such overt attacks on the sovereign soil of the United States and on U.S. citizens would cause the Obama administration to recalibrate its policies. But instead, the first statements issued by his Secretary of State (Hillary Clinton) first apologized for the perceived insult to Islamic sensibilities:

"The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation."

Only then did she go on to say:

"But… there is never any justification for violent acts of this kind."

This mention of the cause and effect in the same breath creates a moral equivalency in the minds of the attackers (and their sponsors), even as the U.S. is trying to stress that one doesn't justify the other.

A judge in a court of law would never allow the mention of a defendant's anger over some random person having called him a 'towel head' or a 'sand n*gger' in a case where the defendant had deliberately attacked or murdered some other, unrelated person who just happened to share the same skin color or nationality as the person who had hurled the original insult. To do so would create in the minds of the Jury a legitimate connection between the insult and the attack, and would offer not only a plausible excuse for the violent behavior… but would also heap some small portion of the blame for the attack on the shoulders of the victim who, in pure legal terms, was blameless.

By the same token, those calling for the U.S. to bomb Libya or Cairo are as misguided as the mob that attacked random Americans and American interests because of their ire at an unrelated American. Clearly these mobs didn't gather spontaneously and start trying to burn down two U.S. Diplomatic missions. They were organized and sent into action by people and/or organizations that had their own agenda and may or may not have had a connection to the ruling government. Those are the people and organizations that must be tracked down and punished.

Yes, at the very core of international diplomacy is the requirement that Governments protect all diplomatic missions and personnel in their countries from assault. The U.S. certainly has enough sticks in its bag to threaten and/or punish the Egyptian and Libyan governments for failing to keep a violent mob from attacking the American diplomatic missions.

But what is most troubling about the current situation is that the Obama administration has once again allowed a connection to be made between perceived American insults to Islam and violent attacks by Islamists against Americans. And the people/organizations that are behind this brand of organized mob violence and terror have once again gotten the feedback they were looking for; that America is once again a soft target.


Posted by David Bogner on September 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cartoons that make you go Hmmmmmm

Today's offering over at Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal was just the sort of cartoon I enjoy most; one that made me think... and then think again.

You don't have to agree, but it might just help you get inside someone else's mindset.

I think they call this 'food for thought'.



Posted by David Bogner on September 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Funny, they don't _______ Jewish!

Back when we had unfettered access to the print edition of the weekend New York Times, one of my wife's somewhat masochistic practices was to turn to the wedding announcements and try to suss out how many of the nuptials, where one of the parties had a Jewish-sounding name, actually involved the union of two Jews.

I never liked this little game because in most cases, even when both halves of the happy couple had names like 'Greenberg' or ''Sussman', a few lines into the announcement would come the jarring mention that the ceremony was performed jointly by both a Rabbi and an Episcopal Rector, or the couple were joined in matrimony by a Wiccan Shaman or Buddhist monk.

But something that has only recently occurred to me is the inherent arrogance of our reliance on an exclusively European/Ashkenazi-centric mental codex of 'Jewish-sounding' names to play the wedding pages game. 

For example, I'd bet money that many Sephardic surnames would ring vaguely hispanic in my ears (as well they should!).  And with a gun to my head, I'd be hard pressed to to pick most Yemenite, Afghani, Libyan or Ethiopian Jewish surnames out of a weekend wedding blotter.

I mention this because my lovely wife attended a moving Israeli Army ceremony last night (I was off with foreign guests and couldn''t attend), where the 'Lone Soldier' who has been living with us for the past three years was named outstanding soldier of his unit... and Zahava came home with an interesting story.

It seems that this ceremony was a very big deal, with top brass in attendance, many officers being given promotions and a soldier from each of the units currently serving in the Gaza theater being singled out as 'outstanding'.

Zahava was seated next to a lovely Ethiopian family at the ceremony whose son was being given the outstanding soldier award for the elite 'Oketz' (K-9) unit.  As his award was being read aloud, a larger than life picture of the young man and his faithful dog was put on display, and everyone cheered heartily. 

But what came next was interesting:

An officer whose first name is 'Moustafa' was called to the stage for a promotion.  Then a soldier named 'Jameel' was called up for an excellence award.

At this point, the Ethiopian mother leaned towards Zahava and whispered, "Moustafa?  Jameel?  Strange, those don't sound like Jewish names!"

Zahava explained that if she had to guess, Moustafa was probably a Druse, and Jameel was likely a Bedouin.  Sudden understanding flashed across the Ethiopian woman's face as she nodded and said, "Oh, that makes sense"... and nothing more was said on the matter.

But for Zahava, it was an interesting lesson in the relativity of cultural assumptions.

With the exception of the Ashkenazi members (and their descendants) of the first - fifth aliyahs, pretty much every other immigrant community has served time at the bottom of the social-economic Israeli pecking order... with the Ethiopian Jewish community currently riding low man on Israel's cultural totem pole.

So it was actually a little reassuring that the Ethiopians have acclimated to such an extent that this woman's cultural ear was already finely attuned to the fact that something didn't 'sound Jewish' about the names she was hearing at the IDF ceremony. 

In short, even though in this case she happened to have been right (the soldiers in question weren't, in fact, Jewish), it was still worthy of a private smile hearing a black, Israeli, Ethiopian Jew delivering a variation on the time-honored "Funny, he doesn't look Jewish!" line.

At least until the next wave of Jewish immigrants lands here to assume their 'rightful' place at the bottom of the Israeli cultural heap, this tiny indication of progress gives me hope that our Ethiopian brothers and sisters may have finally turned a corner of sorts, secure in their place among the sometimes-arrogant Jewish community which, for better or worse, can't help but play at trying to pick one another out of a crowd.

Posted by David Bogner on September 11, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Sharing A Neat Music App

A couple of years ago I wrote about enjoying the ability to listen to U.S. Radio stations over the net via a nifty app called 'Wunder Radio'.  I have to say, it's great being able to do my Friday pre-Shabbat chores while listening to a Classic Rock station broadcasting from Connecticut (complete with traffic reports and local ads) over the stereo.

That's great while I'm at home, but on the few occasions I've tried to listen to my favorite U.S. stations while out in the car or on my scooter, it becomes frustrating as the music stops, buffers and freezes while I go through areas of spotty cell-coverage.  Also, while I happen to have an unlimited 'all you can eat' data plan on my iPhone, many people don't, and trying to stream music over the web on a long trip can get costly.

Enter a very near app called JANGO.  It is available for IOS and Android phones, and rather than constantly streaming, it downloads whole songs in quick bursts.  I imagine it still would be costly for people with very sparse data plans, but for most people it shouldn't be too bad.

Here's how it works:

They have quite a few pre-set 'Genres' such as:

  • Dance
  • Decades: 70s
  • Decades: 80s
  • Decades: 90s
  • Easy Listening
  • Electronic
  • Events
  • Hip Hop
  • Jazz
  • Indie
  • Pop
  • R&B / Soul
  • Rock
  • World
  • Classical

And within each genre there are preset 'Stations' such as '70s Hits', '80s Hits', Love Songs, etc.

Or, if you want to customize your own play list, you can enter the name of an artist / band, and it will play songs by that artist and other similar artists.

Now, even if I'm driving through really remote areas, so long as I have even an intermittent cell signal, I can enjoy uninterrupted* music.

Best of all, JANGO is free!

Don't thank me... I'm a giver!  :-)

* The app pushes occasional ads at you every few songs, but I haven't noticed them to the extent that I consider them an interruption.

Posted by David Bogner on September 6, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Monday, September 03, 2012

A question of dosage

I don't have many vices in life.  An occasional cocktail, beer or glass of wine is about as crazy as I get.  But if you want to get right down to the technical definition of drugs, I tend to use one rather regularly:  Caffeine.

Like most westerners, I tend to take one mega-dose of my drug of choice first thing in the morning.  A self administered 500+ml caffeine Bolus; STAT!

However, after Zahava and I spent some time in Italy recently, I have to say I was enchanted by the quaint local custom concerning caffeine intake:  Rather than take one mega-dose of caffeine in the morning, Italians tend to enjoy 10 - 15 small doses (see note below), throughout the day and late into the evening. 

Aside from the outdoor cafes which dotted the center of pretty much every Italian town and village, every store, gas station and fast-food outlet had a coffee counter where a team of baristi work tirelessly preparing and serving a seemingly never-ending stream of espressos, capuccinos, caffè corretto (a shot of espresso with a tot of liquor added, usually grappa, although sometimes sambuca or brandy), and resentin("little rinser": after finishing a cup of espresso with sugar, a few drops of one of the previously mentioned spirits are poured into the nearly empty cup, swirled and drunk down in one sip). 

Oh... none of this paper cup $tarbuck$ crap over there!  Glass and ceramic demitasse, all the way!  you order, drink and move on.  No take away!

I may just have to consider adjusting my dosage.  Of course, installing an espresso machine in my office might take some convincing to the powers that be.  :-)

Note:  Espresso has more caffeine per unit volume than most beverages, but the usual serving size is smaller—a 30 mL (1 US fluid ounce) shot of espresso has 40 to 75 mg of caffeine, which is less than half the caffeine of a standard 240 mL (8 US fluid ounces) cup of drip-brewed coffee.  [source]

Posted by David Bogner on September 3, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Sunday, September 02, 2012

This is a test... this is only a test!

People who came of age during the Cold War certainly remember the weekly broadcast interruptions on radio and TV stations which would follow one of the following formats:

  • "This is a test. For the next sixty (or thirty) seconds, this station will conduct a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test."
  • "(name of host station in a particular market) is conducting a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test." (Mainly radio stations used this particular format)
  • "This is a test. (Name of Host Station) is conducting a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test."
  • "This is a test. This station is conducting a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test."

What these regular announcements shared was that they began and ended by assuring the public that there was no actual emergency.  In other words; 'stay calm... no need to panic'. 

In the Cold War years of 'duck & cover' drills, fallout shelters and the like, it was understood that the requirement to test the Emergency Broadcast System couldn't be done at the expense of stressing-out the already jittery public.

I mention this bit of trivia today because our youngest child seems to have intuitively internalized this lesson, and successfully applied it to his night-time forays into the parental bedroom.

It must be stressed that with all of our children, the primary reason for a night-time visit to our bedroom has traditionally been to announce an imminent, or just completed, bout of vomiting. 

And as Zahava doesn't 'do' vomit, the protocol requires that the announcement be delivered on my side of the parental bed.

Now, the problem for me as the primary POC for night-time visits, is that I'm a very sound sleeper, and often have no idea what is going on... and little or no recollection of said visit afterwards.

This means I tend to rely almost entirely on my subconscious mind and instinct to manage these little night-time 'emergencies'. 

All of our kids can report that within nano-seconds of my becoming aware of their presence next to my side of the bed, they are generally given the bum's rush (i.e. gripped firmly by the collar and seat of their pajamas) to the toilet with the business end of the child pointed away from their still mostly sleeping father. 

In most cases, their feet never actually touch the floor during this nocturnal dash!

Any parent who has ever had their side of the bed (or themselves!) splashed with the partially digested contents of a child's stomach will understand this instinct for self-preservation.

So back to the present.

Presumably because he's the baby, Yonah has come down to our bedroom in the middle of the night more frequently than his older sibs ever did; usually for one or more of the following reasons (unrelated to vomiting):

  • Wants a drink
  • Wants a snack
  • Wants itchy pajamas changed for more comfy ones
  • Wants dislodged bedding (sheets, blankets, etc.) re-made
  • Wants strange noise(s) investigated
  • Wants dog to keep him company in bed
  • Wants dog removed from his bed
  • Wants to talk

... and the all-time, hands down, most common reason for a midnight visit from Yonah:

  • Wants to snuggle

The problem here (as Yonah has discovered the hard way), is that it's hard to buck the conditioning gained during the formative years of our two older children.  When a child appears at my bedside, I tend to 'scoop and run' first... and ask questions later. 

This has resulted on more than one occasion in my coming awake to find a thrashing Yonah suspended over the toilet at arms reach, when all he wanted was a drink of water or a hug!

[Yup, that kid is gonna get his money's worth out of any future therapy sessions!]

As a result, the following is the approximately what transpired last night:

The Scene:  Our darkened master bedroom

The Time:  00:42 (12:42 AM for you civilians)

The Nocturnal Intruder Visitor: Our eight-year-old son, Yonah

The Announcement:  "Abba, I'm okay... I just want to snuggle you.  Can I snuggle you for a little while?  I'm okay."

This morning at breakfast he thanked me for letting him come into my bed and snuggle for a little while... and for not dragging him into the bathroom.

Smart boy. 

Posted by David Bogner on September 2, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack